The regular Writing Life for me began on a flight from San Francisco to Pittsburgh (with connection to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton). It was a non-event at the time: a thought, a jot, a shot at recording nothing more than a moment. But many things can come out of a moment, even a moment which is deemed so just because it was intentionally noted and tagged soon enough after the fact.
It was near Christmas, just two or three days before, in 1993.
Before year’s end I will be marking the fifteenth anniversary of that bit of notation, and don’t you see? It’s the what-follows that promotes a moment into an event, an event into a milestone (and, I suppose, if your work typecasts you out of illimitability, the milestone becomes the millstone around your neck and you end up with a bad back).
I was in flight, as I said, and of course Allen was beside me. It was a 757. Good Lord God of Biscuits! you may be asking yourself, how on GoB’s green earth did you remember that? Easy: Allen’s legs. Long, rangy man that he was, getting into an airline seat was more an act of folding than sitting. Allen, clever, eidetic, encyclopedic man that he was, kept a catalog of airlines and their fleets (by model) in his head, because legs can only do so much folding and so only certain models (like a 757) on a specific airline (because some airlines pack an extra row or two into coach) would make a cross-country flight bearable.
He always had the aisle seat, which put me not so much in the middle seat as, of course, in the seat beside Allen. You wouldn’t think that 6’4” and 5’6” would be such a fine fit, physically, but his shoulder, bony as it was, was a perfect spot to rest my head. Perhaps that’s why the inaugural bit of writing was so terse (yes, I can do terse). Comfort called, the casual intimacies of two people fitting together, nothing more. His left arm around me, his hand on my left shoulder as we walked through the Castro. Pride! Always his left, because he smoked and because he was a righty.
I’m not going to tell you what I wrote. Not that it wasn’t important: on the contrary, it stands sentry as the bookend for the beginning. And that’s quite a lot of responsibility, especially for a handful of words aimed nowhere, which means they went everywhere. Why won’t I tell you?
There are some things one can never know about others. Simple as that. Not that I’m gratuitously withholding, but rather that pull-quotes don’t travel well between public and private realms. Profound privacy goes to maudlin proclamation. That “somewhere only we know” turns tourist trap.
Keeping a blog has its merits, but it’s no panacea. Nothing is.
And in the twisty-turny perverse reversal of sex and intimacy and the private and the public among gay men in relationships so open that only a deeded property or paper contract may provide evidence of union, or relationships so porous that men have convinced themselves they own the cake and can gorge themselves on it, too, old identities are dissolved in the bile and new labels gerrymander the world into self-involved hamlets, each with the same casual disregard for coexistence with differing worldviews.
But there are things which the world will never know in ways that you do, no matter how many soapboxes, pulpits, captive audiences or kind, lent ears. Tender, gentle things often die in the gusts of the breath which speaks them.
Cast caution—and all the small and so very precious things that make you who you are—to the wind and that oily smudge on the pavement will be all that’s left of you.
Intimacy can be an act of solitude and I have seen intimacy being bled from the world in dribbles, and all those too-open books are slapdash with ink spelling out vulgar aphoristic claptrap and proclaiming themselves bibles.
And look! Look what happens when bibles force themselves upon the greater humanity.